Wednesday, October 06, 2010
Monday, March 16, 2009
Your Opinions are the Problem
Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.
Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.
The professor watched the overflow until he could no longer restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”
“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”
–From Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, compiled by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki (Tuttle)
Applies to life...as my dear Aunti-Anne commented this morning.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
from Growing Up On Facebook By PEGGY ORENSTEIN
[Remarking on the strangeness of her nieces going off to college while still being ultra connected to home and former school mates through Facebook and contrasting that to her experience decades ago:] ...Certainly, I kept in touch with a few true old friends, but no one else — thank goodness! — witnessed the many and spectacular metaphoric pratfalls I took on the way to figuring out what and whom I wanted to be. Even now, time bends when I open Facebook: it’s as if I’m simultaneously a journalist/wife/mother in Berkeley and the goofy girl I left behind in Minneapolis. Could I have become the former if I had remained perpetually tethered to the latter?...On the other hand, for those of us--like me--who may be politico wannabes, it is helpful to have the past all aired out NOW, before the exploratory committee is even formed!
...something is drowned in that virtual coffee cup [of constant connectivity to friends of our past] — an opportunity for insight, for growth through loneliness. ... Maybe the Greek chorus of preschool buddies will be more anchor than albatross, giving them strength to take risks or to stick out tough times. It could be that my generation was the anomalous one, that Facebook marks a return to the time when people remained embedded in their communities for life, with connections that ran deep, peers who reined them in if they strayed too far from the norm, parents who expected them to live at home until marriage (adult children are already reclaiming their childhood rooms in droves). More likely, though, the very thing that attracts us oldsters to Facebook — the lure of auld lang syne — will be its undoing. Kids, who will inevitably want to drive a stake into the heart of former lives, may simply abandon the service (remember Friendster?) and find something new: something still unformed, yet to be invented — much like themselves.
I also find that some of my past friends are connected not only to my past self but also to my past ways of thinking, some of which I miss. When two of my former Summerbridge student volunteers (one of whom is now a Professor at Columbia) recently contacted me, I found that their ideas and ways of talking brought forward memories and connections I had not had in a dozen years. So I feel a more whole self as a result, connecting to places in my brain that had been inaccessible without these "friends'" voices and thoughts. I am not sure that we are all that much more healthy for burying the past. Why not face it, and why not let "face"-book be the facilitator of that?
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Patrick Leahy is exploring the possibility of a Truth Commission
By Jason Leopold
As Democratic leaders struggle over what to do about the Bush administration’s past abuses, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy joined those advocating a “truth and reconciliation commission” that would seek facts, not jail time.
“We could develop and authorize a person or group of people universally recognized as fair minded, and without axes to grind,” Leahy said during a speech at
Georgetown University’s on Monday. “Their straightforward mission would be to find the truth” about controversies such as torture of detainees and warrantless wiretaps. Law Center
“People would be invited to come forward and share their knowledge and experiences, not for purposes of constructing criminal indictments, but to assemble the facts. If needed, such a process could involve subpoena powers, and even the authority to obtain immunity from prosecutions in order to get to the whole truth,” the Vermont Democrat said.
In a nutshell, I don't think this is the right time for a Truth Commission. We are not in a classic transitional justice situation where the nation can't move forward without airing the past. We are also not in a situation where our justice system would be overwhelmed by the volume of potential prosecutions of actors from the 'old regime.'
A truth commission is a means for achieving transitional justice. In achieving this goal, there is a heavy emphasis in truth commissions on creating a collective memorial of past atrocities. Beyond that there is little agreement about its purpose or meaning. Priscilla Hayner has observed the following common criteria of Truth Commissions: 1) a focus on the past, 2) an attempt to paint an overall picture of human rights violations over a period of time rather than focusing on a specific event, 3) temporary existence which ends with a report of findings, 4) a specific scope of authority, vested by the authorizing government enabling it to conduct the full and thorough review with which it is charged. Others add to this criteria the following requirements: 1) domestic support, a willingness of the citizens to go through the process of hearing testimony from victims and perpetrators and to engage on the terms defined by the commission, 2) sufficient funding to support the commissioners, pay for hearing costs, travel, stenographers, security, and administrative costs, 3) strong political leaders actively encouraging participation and compliance at all levels of government and society, 4) power for the commission to proceed under ICC (or at least International Public Law rules), 5) proportionality, an actual need to uncover the Truth (despite the immense emotional upheaval it creates) against a high potential for revisionist history.
However wide the scope of truth commissions, there are a few things they do not do. They do not put perpetrators on trial. There are few procedural rights, rules of evidence, verdicts or sentences in truth commissions. They are not on-going. The work of the commission begins on one date and ends on another, often arbitrary, date. Sometimes the commission's work will be extended, but the structure of a truth commission, gathering testimonial evidence about a set period in national history then issuing a report means the work will end at some point and the commission will cease to exist. There is also no set method for conducting a truth commission—even now that there is a considerable body of commission history to draw from—or for deciding when to have one.
Furthermore, as Teresa Godwin Phelps writes in, Shattered Voices, her survey of past commissions, this type of justice forum is most useful in fulfilling the revenge instinct of a group of formerly oppressed people by allowing them (or actually a few of their representatives) to tell their stories. In the
 Priscilla B. Hayner, Fifteen Truth Commissions–1974 to 1994: A Comparative Study, 16 Hum. Rts Quarterly 597, 604 (1994).
 Erin Daly, Transformative Justice, 12 Int'l Legal Persp. 73, 96–98 (2002) (discussing "features of transformative institutions").
 David Dyzenhaus, Truth, Reconciliation and the Apartheid Legal Order 4 (Cape Town : Juta & Co., 1998). Daly has also suggested that Truth commissions only work where aligned with cultural needs.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
In honor of Dr. Schweitzer’s birthday on Jan 14--in a nice coincidence the day before Martin Luther King's-- the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship officially launched a year-long U.S. campaign to promote Schweitzer-spirited service, celebrating 2009 as the 60th anniversary of Dr. Schweitzer’s one trip to the U.S.
In celebration of the 60th anniversary of the only U.S. visit of revered physician, philosopher, environmentalist, musician, and Nobel Peace Laureate Dr. Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965), The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship announced today a year-long nationwide 2009 celebration of Dr. Schweitzer’s legacy of service. The celebrations will engage people across the country in encouraging and supporting expanded Schweitzer-spirited service to individuals and communities in need, and especially in helping young people discover and experience the deep personal rewards of pursuing lifelong paths of service.
By age 29, Albert Schweitzer was a renowned scholar in the fields of theology and philosophy, the leading scholar of his generation on the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, and the acclaimed organist for the Paris Bach Society. Yet he remained unfulfilled, until deciding at the age of 30 to become a doctor and devote the rest of his life to direct service in Africa in Lambaréné, Gabon, where there was no doctor. The Schweitzer Hospital at Lambaréné became a worldwide symbol of human service and solidarity, and an inspiration to countless others across the world who followed Dr. Schweitzer’s urging to “find your own Lambaréné.”
In honor of today’s anniversary of Dr. Schweitzer’s birthday, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick proclaimed January 14, 2009 “Albert Schweitzer Reverence for Life Day” in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, urging all citizens to “participate fittingly in the 2009 U.S. celebrations of Dr. Schweitzer’s legacy.”
During Dr. Schweitzer’s 1949 visit he was the keynote speaker at a cultural festival in the then little-known town of Aspen, which led to the creation the following year of the Aspen Institute and the Aspen Music Festival and School. Dr. Schweitzer also visited Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, and New York City, and was featured in a cover story in Time magazine.
The 2009 “Schweitzer in America: 1949 – 2009” initiative includes a steadily-growing number of collaborators, including with the Aspen Institute, the Aspen Music Festival and School, the Longwood Symphony Orchestra, Youth Service America, Hugh O’Brian Youth (HOBY), Tennessee Players, and the University of Chicago and other universities across the U.S., including the more than 100 health-related professional schools in the U.S. whose students have served as Schweitzer Fellows.
2009 activities are planned in all locations of ASF’s existing U.S. Schweitzer Fellows Programs, including Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Houston-Galveston, New Hampshire/Vermont, Los Angeles, New Orleans, North Carolina, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco/Bay Area, as well as in prospective sites such as Tulsa, New York City, and Seattle. Through these programs, ASF has already selected and supported nearly 2,000 U.S. Schweitzer Fellows who are now united in a national and international lifelong network of “Schweitzer Fellows for Life.”
Thursday, January 08, 2009
THERE ARE NO LONGER NINE PLANETS IN YOUR SOLAR SYSTEM (but there are now five really cute mini-planets with pointy hats)
Ok, it made the New York Times in 2007 and NPR in 2006. I guess I wanted splash, a ticker tape parade.
How could I have missed this????
Thursday, November 06, 2008
I noticed that Michelle Obama lists the following among her critical issues:
a. helping working women balance work and family, and
b. encouraging national service.
She also mentions supporting military families, but I cannot speak intelligently on that, so I won't addresses it here.
These other two issues are crucial to changing how our citizens respond to President Obama's vision for change.
a. Work-life-family balance for women.
Unless women can fulfill their roles as mothers--nurturers, educators, mentors, role models for self-discipline, repository of cultural tradition, sources of comfort, family history and values--to our nation's children, we will not be able to raise the next Great Generation. We need to change the way we as a nation think of parenting (and, here I will acknowledge that men as fathers also play an important role--often in a uniquely masculine way and sometimes as nurturers in place of mothers). We must see parenting not in the short term as an inconvenient interruption from economic productivity (e.g. time not spent on the job) but as integral to forming our long term viability as economic and cultural world leaders (since I see no end to our global hegemony). Once we can change our vision of parenting--especially mothering, then "balance" will come to mean something--and that will be win-win: Women add value to the work force by bringing their feminine strengths to problem-solving, interpersonal management, governance, etc. Women also add value by nurturing healthy families, including themselves. This kind of "balance" will have the added benefit of growing our economy in the right areas. For, women with time (and knowledge--see below) to lead their families will likely be the leaders in changing how our children and parents eat and exercise (fighting obesity), as well as how we address and treat factors contributing to chronic illness (obesity leading to heart disease, diabetes, chronic back and joint pain) and addiction (addressing mental health / stress factors in the family). These women will also likely lead the way in energy conservation, support for local agriculture, and sustainable businesses.
For many, many women, changing our perspective and national consciousness about this balance will be enough to bring about change. Major employers already understand some of the benefits of flex time and flex space. Some employers are even moving away from the 40 hour work week to a strictly goals based performance / compensation model. This kind of structure will work for managers and other office workers. Where we need the creative, brilliant work to happen in with those living below the median income level and those living in poverty through 200% of poverty. These women need access to some of the amazing cutting-edge programs already happening in this country. And, those programs need a workforce of energetic Americorps / Peace Corps / Teach for
b. National service.
To this end, I think Michelle should be introduced to amazing programs that actually achieve these ends. Of course I would nominate Families Learning Together (particularly the program out of Middlebury /
Learning Together (and programs like it) also instills in participants a desire to give back to their community, and they do. This is how we want government to address those in need. This is the "Yes, We Can" approach. Through programs like Learning Together, government can not only "do for people what they cannot do for themselves," but actually can also change what people can and will do for themselves and others. Not only are valuable and established programs like Learning Together natural starting points for a national service program, they are also incubators for future corps members and community leaders. Let's stop the cycles of poverty and build cycles of service!